China's naval expansion has riveted the world's attention, whereas Japan's capabilities are often underestimated. Tokyo's defense establishment keeps its strategies vague for political and diplomatic reasons. But Oros and Tatsumi provide a clear account of the relevant organizations, policies, politics, and deployments that is useful as an introduction for beginners or as a synthesis for experts. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Japan's main defense worries have been China and North Korea, followed by the security of Japan's maritime supply lines, which run all along China's 2,000 miles of coastline. In the authors' judgment, Japan's navy and air force are among the most advanced in the world, the defense alliance with the United States has its tensions but remains robust, and the twists and turns of Japan's domestic politics have not weakened its capabilities.
These capabilities, along with those of the United States, are a major concern for China. Yoshihara and Holmes analyze the lively debate among Chinese strategists over how much of the country's growing defense budget should go to naval expansion and what kind. Some argue that China should remain essentially a land power, but others make a strong case that it is at sea where China confronts its most powerful rivals. The options given by Chinese defense analysts range from the temporary control of nearby waters to more ambitious agendas, including shared dominance with other navies throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans. Every option faces the constraining geographic reality of the so-called first and second island chains -- Japan, Taiwan, Guam, and the maritime states of Southeast Asia -- which hem in China's navy in every direction. But Chinese strategists are optimistic that these chains can be breached, most decisively by taking control of Taiwan, and the navy is developing capabilities that could fend off U.S. intervention there. Taken together, the two studies serve as a reminder that the Asian seas contain three very large navies in very close quarters.